A growing problem, too

A follow-up to the last post. Didn't realise it hadn't been posted earlier. I really need to pay a bit more attention to lil bloggy.

*   *   *   *  *    *   *   *   *  *   *   *   *   *  *   *   *   *   *  *   *   *   *   *  *   

A corollary to the books-I-cant-be-bothered-to-finish, is the books I want to finish, but somehow just can't. Case in point: Sealy's Trotternama.

I can't remember where I picked up my copy, which is in itself an unusual occurrence (I have a vague feeling it was on sale at some book exhibition).  What I do remember is that I hadn't heard of Sealy or the book before, but was simply intrigued by the title.  Which might or might not have to do with the vague feeling that I'd eaten Khyber's* then-famous paaya shorba a few days earlier.  I could be imagining this memory, of course.

The book's been with me for around 15 years.  It's a lumpy Penguin edition, slightly bigger than standard paperback size, which means it sort of flops around.  And it's one of those poor prints that Penguin occasionally comes out with, with a weird narrow font size in a not-blackily-black ink on paper that's really too thin to not see what's on the other side of the page, and with a so bleh cover.

I've made several forays at the book.  I keep getting a quarter into it, and then just ... moving on.  I know I'm quite interested in all the minute details that he goes into, and I don't really mind the archaic English form he slips in, or the fourth-wall breakouts.  But I just couldn't ever finish the book, and a few years ago, I'd put it on my shelf of books-to-be-finished.

I took it up again recently after picking up copies of his Everest Hotel and Red, and devouring them over a couple of days. Right, I figured, you just didn't get Sealy at the time.  Maybe it was all too jumpy-abstract for you then. But you get him now, and Trotter-nama's going to be awesome.

Like bugger it is.  This time I've got halfway through it, and I'm stuck.  The damn thing has been lying on my bedside table for a month now, striking up irritatingly brief conversations with all the other tomes that have passed through, and wondering what it can do to make me love it that little bit more.

I'm seriously considering blaming the physical book for it, for the reasons above.

Which would of course raise a whole set of other questions and issues, such as whether I'm really that shallow as to require good form to appreciate good content, and so on.


* Whatever happened to Khyber? I can't remember it ever being discussed as an option for eating out in the last ... decade or so.  Heck, I can't remember anybody even mentioning it in the same time. Even in guides or somesuch. It's one of those places that seems to have simply been bypassed by the foodie crowd, and probably relies on old faithful diners**. 
** Now that I think of it, this applies to a whole bunch of places that used to be the eating-out option, when there like, five. And are now just staples, dinosaurs, same-old same-old and quite rubbish in most cases. Delhi Darbar's another that springs to mind.


A growing problem

I'd like to think it's because of the way I was taught to eat food - if it's on your plate, you finish it. And that somehow this extended in my mind on how to read books - if you started it, finish it.  Or maybe I just watched too much Mastermind.

It used to be a point of pride.  No matter how plodding the book, how utterly bad the writing, how boring the plot, if I'd got past the first dozen pages, I was going to finish it. If only so I could utterly shred it apart once I was done.  That was the rule.

Somewhere down the line, though, that changed.  I think the first book I consciously put aside was American Psycho*, which was just too .... 

Then came the ill-fated re-re-attempt to read Ulysses. Which, by the way, I blame for the stoppage of my blogging back then. 

And since then, it's become increasingly frequent.  I get halfway through a book, and if I can't take it any more, I discard it.  Just like that.  And not just with books that are bad.  I've even got to the point where I'm comfortable with leaving a book just because I don't like it.  No more 'oh I should read it to expand my horizons', or 'I should be open to all forms of writing', no more 'oh but novels are meant to be deep and full of pathos and misery'.  Screw that.

No regrets, no feeling of ashamed guilt, no itch of incompleteness.  Just, away, and onwards.

Maybe it's the increased awareness that there are so many better books that I could better be spending my diminshing time on.  Maybe it's the acceptance that I simply don't like some genres and styles of writing, and more importantly, that I don't have to.  Maybe it's just the fear of disappointment, and being content with the books that I know appeal to me**.  Maybe I'm losing that sense of urgency and drive to go read the works of all the amazing authors I have only heard of thus far.  Maybe it's that I know the world is shite, and I just can't deal with more tragedy and pain and angst in the fiction I read for pleasure, however well-written they may be.

Maybe it's just a phase.

* I was certain I'd posted about this before, but can't seem to find any mention on the blog.  I might have deleted the post.  I do that quite often.
** I find myself re-reading a lot.


The city of my dreams

Whenever I visit Bombay now, I'm a fragile vessel of conflicting and equally-demanding emotions.

Appreciation.  Of the architechtural quirks and delights that dot the old city.  A new-found, on-third-look, see-past-the-grime type.  I always liked and admired them, but I didn't really understand how wonderful they were till I spent sufficient time with the oh-this-pub-has-been-running-since-1793* Brits.

Wistfulness.  Due to the growing realisation that this appreciation has come too late.  A reminder brought forcefully home as I decide to go and properly observe a vaguely-remembered colonial-era building, only to be confronted by a concrete block of unimaginative dullness.

Desperation. Borne of knowing that even if I were to win the biggest Euromillions jackpot possible, I would be able to buy and restore just about a dozen of the few villas still remaining, thanks to the city's insane land prices. A mere dozen.

Claustrophobia.  The city was always narrow and the existence of some parts felt like you had walked into a Tardis, and now it's going vertical in a way that would make ol' Jack scold his beans for being so slow to grow.  Walking down some roads now, it feels like they're all listing towards each other, trying to crowd out any little sky, and are waiting to come toppling down on you.

Despair and disbelief.  At the sheer levels of filth and infrastructural decrepitude. A decade ago, a dozen years into the liberalisation era, there was such belief, such hope, such ambition that the city was headed for so much better, given its already-established position in the country's mythos. There was hope that the sale of the mill-lands would create new open spaces and educational institutions and hospitals and cultural hubs and help de-congest the place. Instead, other cities have overtaken and sped past it, with their shiny new airports and metros and wide roads and innovative schools and massive spaces for arts. And Bombay ... well Bombay just crawls on, with its poorly-planned, rushed-through transport projects and a citizenry that just does not care anymore, that has lost the will to fight, that is so tired from having to try and claw back the merest and tiniest of necessities.

Nostalgia.  When remembering that wada pavs used to cost a rupee.

Shock and denial.  That the cheapest one I could find this time cost twelve rupees!**

Simple-pleasure happiness. When lazily dunking a bun-maska into a cup of sweet chai at one of the few cafes still left. In the middle of the morning.  While watching the crowds scurry scurry scurry along.  And then ordering another round.  Because you don't have to scurry anywhere.

* Of course it has. Do you people ever stop drinking?
** I sound like my grandmother now ('We used to get a dozen for the same price that
just one costs today'**). 


A Manual of Life: Things You Didn't Realise Till You Did #94

Yellow lightbulb.
Light yellow walls.
Switch light on.
Stare at the part of wall closest to the bulb (and where the light is brightest).
Yellow fades to green.
Mind blown.